In the preface to his commentary on Ephesians John Stott writes,” … Ephesians is the gospel of the church. It sets forth God’s eternal purpose to create through Jesus Christ a new society which stands out in bright relief against the somber background of the world today. For God’s new society is characterized by life in place of death, by unity and reconciliation in place of division and alienation, by wholesome standards of righteousness in place of corruption and wickedness, by love and peace in place of hatred and strife, and by unremitting conflict with evil in place of flabby compromise with it.” So what do you think? Does Stott have too high an expectation of the Church?
If Jesus’ mission was predicated on love (for God so loved the world), and the net result of that love being poured out in death on the cross brought life, unity and reconciliation, righteousness and peace for all those that believe in him (Jesus Christ as lord and savior). Then when Jesus says to his disciples, “ Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35 New Living Translation). Then it seems to me Stott’s comments are reasonable.
A little further on Stott writes, “For the sake of the glory of God and evangelization of the world, nothing is more important than that the church should be and should be seen to be, God’s new society.” So, what value do you place on the church?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together wrote, “If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.”
There are some today within the faith that are highly critical of current church models. I for one am a strong advocate of church being represented throughout community in its various forms. After all Jesus commands his disciples to make disciples as they go. This means without a doubt that our Christian world view should influence our actions and voice no matter where we are. But this integration into society in no way supplants the importance, need or validity of the Church as the gathered worshiping congregation of God’s chosen people. The Church is central to God’s plans in redeeming those that are lost, dead and decaying.
As a community of people, who worship, love, grow serve and discover Jesus together our view/understanding of living in community is crucial as it will undoubtedly influence all we do and say. It will influence our attitudes to each other, the community at large and last but certainly not least the way we interact with God.
So, we have looked at what we are doing in terms of current ministry activity. Overall there appears to be good alignment with who we say we are and what we do. And we should be grateful and give thanks to God. But how do we strengthen and more fully integrate what we do into the overall life of the church community at Lilydale Baptist? Where to from here? I would encourage you to consider some of the words Isaiah spoke (30:15) “In quietness and confidence is your strength.” Let us be a community that seeks God’s will and experience God’s strength in all thing as we turn to Him. Pastor Stewart.